There is a wonderful lady whom I have known since I was in high school. Her name is Gail. She is one of the sweetest people I've ever met and everyone who knows her, loves her. And in addition to her being an all around delightful person, she makes the best cinnamon rolls of anyone I know. They bake up light and fluffy and not too sweet. She always served them warm, frosting them right after taking them out of the oven. If I got to have one of those cinnamon rolls for breakfast, no matter what happened the rest of the day, I had a great day.
These delicious cinnamon rolls have been on my mind for a while. The trouble is: the process of making them is quite time consuming. If I wanted these warm cinnamon rolls for breakfast, I would have to get up about 4 hours before I planned on eating them. And as most anyone who knows me can tell you, I am not a morning person. At all. I figured that there had to be an easier way. Therefore I, of course, consulted my mother, my go-to person for most things edible. She has a recipe for refrigerator rolls that she also uses for her cinnamon rolls. The dough is refrigerated overnight to proof and then shaped and baked the next day. We decided that Gail's recipe could be treated in the same way and should turn out just fine as long as I didn't leave the dough in the fridge long enough for it to sour. (Sourdough cinnamon rolls are quite revolting, in my opinion. I've accidentally let my mom's recipe sour before with not-so-tasty results.) So, I decided to try letting the dough do it's initial rise in the fridge overnight.
The problem then became bringing the dough back to room temperature so it was easy to work with and would roll out properly without having to wait an hour. The solution was to use a technique I learned from America's Test Kitchen. I turned the oven on to 200 degrees and let it heat up. I turned the oven off and put the mixer bowl of dough in the oven until the dough started rising slightly. The dough was pliable and gently warmed to room temp again. To cut the time for the second rise, after shaping the rolls, I used the same technique. I cut the rising time from one hour to 20 minutes. So rather than spending 4 hours in the morning being tired, cranky and impatient, I cut that time to about 1 1/2 hours. I got started at about 6:30 and was eating warm, wonderful cinnamon rolls for breakfast at 8:00.
They turned out as perfectly as I remembered them being. The dough is only slightly sweetened, so I could control the sweetness of the rolls by adding more or less cinnamon sugar before rolling it up. By frosting the rolls while they're warm, I could use less frosting too. So these heavenly rolls are just sweet enough to make eating two almost justifiable. Almost. And I'm sure many a child or teenager could eat a whole pan of them without gaining an ounce. But for me, I put the limit at one per morning. Maybe another at lunch. Possibly a third after dinner. You know, if there are any still hanging around. I have to take some to the neighbors to help keep the temptation to a minimum.
So after talking up this amazing recipe, here it is. I didn't have dry milk, so I used 3 cups of regular milk, in lieu of the dry milk and hot water, heated with the butter on the stove until the butter melted. It worked just fine.
Gail's Heavenly Cinnamon Rolls
3 c hot water
1 c non-instant dry milk
1/2 c potato flakes
1/2 c butter
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp salt
6-7 c flour
2 Tbsp instant dry yeast
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 c sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
Combine water, dry milk, potato flakes, butter, sugar and salt in mixer bowl. Let cool to luke warm.
Add eggs and 4 c flour and mix 4-5 minutes with a dough hook.
Sprinkle yeast on top of dough and mix until well blended.
Add rest of flour a little at a time until the dough starts forming a ball on the hook and slightly pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
To eat the same day:
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour and pour out the dough. Using a rubber scraper, fold the edges of the dough into the middle. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Put dough in bowl, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until almost triple in bulk, about 60-75 minutes.
To eat the next morning:
Cover the mixer bowl with plastic and refrigerate over night, no longer than 10 hours or the dough may start to sour. In the morning, turn the oven to 200 degrees and allow to fully heat up. Once it has reached 200 degrees, turn off the oven, remove the plastic wrap and put the mixer bowl in the oven. Let it warm for 10-20 minutes, or until the dough looks slightly more puffed and is no longer cold to the touch.
Grease two baking trays.
Mix 1 c sugar and the cinnamon together in a small bowl.
Divide the dough in half. Roll each half out on floured surface into a 10 x 16" rectangle. Brush each rectangle with half the melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/2" bare along one long edge. Starting with the other long edge, roll up the dough into a log. Pinch the seem together.
Cut each log into 12 pieces and place on baking trays.
Cover with a clean towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Alternately, heat oven to 200 degrees. Turn oven off and place trays in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and heat to 350 degrees.
Bake rolls in 350 degree oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden.
Frost while still warm and serve.
1 stick butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 c milk
Beat butter in mixer until soft. Add rest of ingredients and mix until smooth.